"Nothing Was Off the Table" - '350 Days' Director Fulvio Cecere Talks Candid Legends of Pro Wrestling's Territory Days

“Nothing Was Off the Table” – ‘350 Days’ Director Fulvio Cecere Talks Candid Legends of Pro Wrestling’s Territory Days

Posted by July 11, 2018 Comment

Listen up, pro wrestling fans and non-fans alike. This Thursday, July 12th, a new documentary called 350 Days will debut in theaters for a one-night-only special premiere event, taking an in-depth look at the lives of some of the most well-known pro wrestlers from the territory days. Just take a look at some of the names featured in the movie:

Starring former world champions Bret Hart and “Superstar” Billy Graham, the documentary provides a behind-the-scenes look at the grueling life they led on the road and the effect that lifestyle had on their marriages, family, physical and mental health. Featuring Greg Valentine, Tito Santana, Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, Abdullah The Butcher, Wendi Richter, Bill Eadie, Nikolai Volkoff, Lanny Poffo, Stan Hansen, Angelo Mosca, Lex Luger, and more, the event also includes some of the last interviews ever done with George “The Animal” Steele, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Ox Baker, The Wolfman, “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe, Don Fargo, and 99-year-old Angelo Savoldi.

The movie is directed and produced by Fulvio Cecere and produced by Evan Ginzburg (The Wrestler) and Darren Antola. Bleeding Cool had the opportunity to talk with Fulvio Cecere about the movie, and we asked him all about his experience with these wrestling legends, and also his experience acting in Watchmen. Does Cecere think Warner Bros. should release the Snyder Cut? Read on to find out…


Tell me about 350 Days.

350 Days is a labor of love that took us five years to make. It was based on the idea of just telling the story of pro wrestling, their life on the road, back during the territory days that no longer exists. I met [Producer] Darren Antola — he’s the partner who had the idea because he’s a big wrestling fan from way back. I wasn’t. We met at the Boxing Hall of Fame in New York through some mutual connections. He still is a cut man and he was a cut man for Lou Duva, and I was with Angelo Dundee who was [Muhammad] Ali’s trainer. So we we struck up a friendship. He had this other project he was working on. I helped him with that. That didn’t go anywhere.

Ultimately, he had this idea about telling the story about these guys lives because he was so well connected with a lot of the wrestlers. And so I offered to direct for him, and we put together a weekend, and we got a couple of the wrestlers, and just from the moment the camera started rolling it was just gold. So it proceeded to be 21 or 22 days of shooting over five years. A hundred and twenty hours of footage that we had to whittle down. I interviewed 72 people altogether. Thirty-eight I think made the cut into the movie. It’s been tremendous. I’ve seen pretty much almost every major documentary done on pro-wrestling and in terms of my research and out have curiosity, and I think what we have is maybe the best one ever.

These people were so candid and honest and open. Nothing was off the table. They’re just telling their history. It’s a true documentary. We’re documenting this time in history. And I think I have some real gold here. I think fans, wrestling fans especially, are gonna love it. But my goal is for people that don’t know anything about wrestling to see it because it’s a true human interest story that everybody can associate what these guys went through. To feel it anyway.

So you weren’t a fan; did you not know anything about it going in?

Pretty much, yeah. I’d say I was a fan when I was a kid, and I’m 58. So we’re talking the ’60s. I was growing up in Montreal then, moved to New Jersey when I was a kid, but back in the ’60s, watching Bruno Sammartino, that was my history with wrestling. And I wrestled in high school. But obviously, that’s not the same thing. And so, the irony here, or the funny thing, is that my dad was a wrestling fan, so I would come home from a night of partying with my friends and there’s my dad watching wrestling on TV, which I thought was kind of funny but he loved it. So no, I wasn’t a fan at all. But I was just fascinated by these people. And I approached it strictly as a filmmaker.

And I think it really helps, because not knowing anything about this, I wasn’t influenced. I wasn’t some kind of mark wanting to do some you know some glory piece or some shoot video. I wanted to make a movie, and that’s what I did. We have a real movie. Indie in spirit and money-wise, but no, this is a real documentary. This’ll stand up against anything. It’s beautifully shot. I use only the best equipment. The best cameramen. We traveled all over the country. I’m so proud of it. It’s truly a real piece of history. And even that, like 12 of the 72 people that we’ve interviewed so far passed away. So we may have the last interviews ever on some of these people and I’m really proud of that.

Yeah, I was going to ask about that. I noticed in the clips that I was able to see, you had George “The Animal” Steele in there and Jimmy Snuka who are both gone. Who are some of the other wrestlers who passed away that are in the movie?

Don Fargo. Cowboy Bob Kelly. He’s not in the movie but we interviewed him, and Buddha Kahn. I interviewed him at the Cauliflower Alley Club. “Wolfman Willie Farkas. “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe. It’s a lot. And it’s very sad. Quite a few of them were old. But a lot of them had health issues. Even a couple now — a lot now — are not doing too well. “Superstar” Billy Graham is pretty ill. Don Leo Johnson is in a wheelchair. “King Kong” Angelo Mosca has Alzheimer’s I hear. It makes it doubly more important because these guys had such a great life and such a vital history, and here we are, towards the end, and they’re telling their story and they’re not sugarcoating anything. They’re not hiding anything. “This was the life I led. Yes, there were infidelities, and yes, I did drugs, and yes, I did steroids,” and nothing was off the table.

We had a certain set of questions about what life was like on the road, and then they just went off on their tangent, telling their stories. A lot of it was dark, and that was the life. It wasn’t easy. So the fans I think are really gonna appreciate it because they probably think it was some kind of glamorous lifestyle. You know, they’re stars, and all these fans and coliseums and blah blah blah. No. These guys got up in the morning. They worked out. They were hungover. They’d drive 200 miles to the next place and they’d wrestle for 20, 30 dollars. They’d get drunk. They’d get into brawls. They go to sleep, get up in the morning, and start all over again. It was a crazy, crazy lifestyle, and I don’t think fans had any idea.

And the whole kayfabe thing too, right? They all traveled together, but fans can’t see them together. So if they were in a bar, they’d have to pretend to fight or walk away or something, and yet they just got there in the same van. So it’s just really such an interesting thing, especially from someone who had no idea what that lifestyle was about.

Wrestling is a lot a lot more exposed these days with the Internet. And you mentioned kayfabe, now with all the websites, so much media following the wrestling industry, a lot of the backstage stuff is very public now. Was it hard to get some of these old school guys where it was more important to keep the secrets protected, to open up on camera about it?

Oh no. No. Oh my, the stories. That’s what I’m saying. This isn’t some pat on my back. I really have something special here. These wrestlers really opened up. The stories about them backstage… “Yeah, I’m driving down the road doing an 8-ball of cocaine, blah blah blah, oh yeah, drinking four cases of beer in between cities,” and nothing was off the table.

I remember Greg “The Hammer” Valentine talking about “Chief” [Jay] Strongbow. He was wrestling him, and he noticed that he was bleeding from the nose, so he had been doing like way too much coke, and he was getting really really animated in the ring. He was getting pretty violent on Greg. Greg just had to let go and punched him as hard as he could in the ring and knocked him out. So, I guess fans don’t know. That wasn’t fake. That wasn’t wrestling. That was Greg “The Hammer” slamming “Chief” Strongbow in front of everybody in the public. Wild stuff. So no kayfabe there. He’s just telling that story.

Bret “The Hitman” [Hart] talking about traveling in vans and how the midget wrestlers were stacked up on the luggage in the back or underneath the seats, and just incredibly great, great stories. Really behind the scenes. We’ve got rare footage. We’ve got rare photos. We’ve got home movies from Jimmy Snuka. We’ve got movies that J.J. Dillon took in Japan when he was wrestling there in 1974. We’ve got a lot of really great stuff that the wrestling fans will be truly impressed with.

But like I said, I want housewives. I want people that just don’t know anything about wrestling. Young people that may watch it now, but they don’t know what it was like. These guys paved the road for what it is now, but they actually lived it. They lived a life where people thought it was real. So it’s really pretty eye opening I think.

What do you hope to accomplish with the film? What’s the main message you’re trying to get across?

Well, that’s pretty much it. I want to tell these guys’ lives. They deserve that. A lot of these guys… You know, it’s funny, because I found a whole bunch of them, and they’d almost forgotten, I guess you could say. One of the guys that really left an impression was “The Wolfman” Willie Farkas. I talked to a lot of wrestling fans and they all remember him. He used them to wear this wolf outfit, and they’d put these bars on the TV screen to make it look like he was a wild animal. [His manager] would bring him into the ring with a chain and a collar. I’d never heard of this guy. And I found him living in obscurity in Toronto. He had been living in this small, little, cramped apartment. His entire walls were just filled with memorabilia from his wrestling days. He was just kind of like, living in the past and old, and I was just fascinated. I read up on him, I did my research, and holy crap, this guy had such an interesting life. Wow. I want people to know about it. I want them to remember. And we’ve done that.

Don Fargo is another one. He had 18 gimmicks during his wrestling career. The Fabulous Fargo Brothers were selling out the Madison Square Garden in 1960. I’m like, holy crap! What a great, unbelievable life. Do people remember that? Well, they should. So I’m going to tell them. It’s there now. He passed away, and people are gonna know what he did. So it’s a time capsule is what it is. It’s documenting history.

So the movie is being released in theaters with Fathom Events and that’s as I understand it a one night only deal?

Yes. Fathom Events is the premier events promotion, if you will. They do all kinds of stuff. They did the Conor McGregor/Mayweather fight. They do releases of stuff like Casablanca, the fiftieth anniversary, where it’s really special, one-night occasions, and they go all out. There’s all kinds of promotion. There’s a live satellite feed. We’re gonna be in 400 theatres, all across the U.S., one night. It’s a special event, and they helped us promote it. They find the premise of the movie itself to be worthy of this promotion and this one-night special engagement. We’re very proud to be part of it. I’m looking forward to a great night.

And that includes a live interview with J.J. Dillon, talking about the current state of pro wrestling and the film?

We have two premieres that night. We’re tackling both coasts. So my partners are gonna be doing the New York City premiere at the Union Square AMC. They’re gonna have an autograph signing session. Greg Valentine will be there. Tito Santana and J.J. Dillon in person. The fans can get an autograph. Then they’re gonna see the movie. The beginning of the movie is an interview that Evan Ginzburg, our associate producer, did with J.J. Dillon. And then you’ll see the movie, and then there’s J.J. again doing a question and answer with Evan, talking about the current state of affairs in wrestling and reminiscing about Bruno, who had just passed away prior to that interview.

And then on the West Coast, I’m going to be premiering at the famous Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I’ve got a huge list of celebrities that are making it. Former WWE wrestlers, I’ve got five of the original GLOW girls coming. I’ve got actor and director friends of mine coming. It’s gonna be a huge red carpet event. I’m gonna have an after party. We’ve got the whole deal. Cameras and press coming. It’s in the true Hollywood spirit. My first feature film. So we’re gonna have a party.

From your perspective, as a guy who didn’t really follow wrestling before making the movie, but now obviously being very knowledgeable about it, what’s your opinion of the current state of pro wrestling? Do you watch any wrestling now?

Well, you know, it’s funny, because I don’t. But I follow it on the on the periphery, if you will, and I’m getting really encouraged. For example, I didn’t know much about Ring of Honor, and I’ve got three champs from Ring of Honor coming. And people are going crazy because it’s a really great promotion. Impact Wrestling. I don’t want to say yet who I have, because it’s not confirmed, but I’ve got someone coming from impact and people are just raving about it. Chris Jericho was going to come, and he has a rock band called Fozzy, and he’s gonna be in Wisconsin that night, so we can’t make it. But he knows all about it. He’s seen the promos. Can’t wait to see it and all that. And I think pretty much everybody I’ve been talking says that New Japan Pro Wrestling is probably the premier wrestling promotion these days.

And it’s funny that you mention it, because just last night I was on Facebook and a friend of mine had posted something from an event going on in San Francisco, and I’m watching it and I’m like, wow, these guys are really good. You’d think some of these indie promotions would be kinda cheesy or less than professional, but no, it was really really good wrestling. So I’m impressed. These guys are in great shape. They’re great technicians. The fans are totally into it. It’s funny because I know I hear a lot of WWE bashing, and you’ll never hear from me because that wasn’t our goal at all. We have nothing bad to say about WWE in our documentary. [Vince McMahon] is a great businessman and he does what he does and it’s profitable and all that. But you hear a lot of people complaining about it, and that the storylines are not that great, but the Ring of Honor guys, the Impact and New Japan, people are just raving about it. So I think there’s a pretty bright future in it.

Before we go, I just wanted to ask you… Bleeding Cool is primarily a comics website. We cover wrestling too, but comics is really our bread and butter. And so you were you were in the movie Watchmen. What was that like?

Well, an honor really, because, as you know, Time Magazine called it not only one of the best graphic novels but one of the best books ever. I’ve seen it maybe four or five times. Every time I watch it, it gets better and better. I mean the scope. Zack did such an incredible job. In the movie, I only made it to one scene. It was Doctor Manhattan’s handler. But, in the director’s cut, all my other scenes are in that. So I actually get my ass kicked by Silk Spectre, that is pretty cool. And it was her first fight scene ever. So that was really great. But it’s also funny that you mention all the comics. Up until two years ago, I had a collection of about 600 comic books that I sold. I’d been collecting them since I was 13, and that was from the early 70s. So I grew up on comic books. I was a huge comic book nerd. Although I don’t buy them or read them these days, I’m still fascinated by them.

As a matter of fact, in my apartment in Vancouver, I’ve got three comic books from the 1940s that I found in the garbage as kid that I had framed. I just loved the artwork. I’m fascinated by that stuff. And another one that I love, and I still think I have a whole bunch of issues down in my mom’s basement, is Famous Monsters of Filmland. I used to buy all that stuff when I was a kid. So I’m glad that you’re still around and promoting them.

What were some of your favorite comics when you were a kid?

Well, it’s funny. I mean, of course, you know, I love Spider-Man, Batman, Superman. But one of my favorites was Daredevil. I just love Daredevil. Sub-Mariner. Anything that Jack Kirby drew. Jack Kirby I just love. I just heard yesterday that Ditko passed away. It’s a shame. He did such iconic stuff with Spider-Man. I love all that stuff Romita did. But yeah, Daredevil I thought was so cool. He’s blind, and he’s a superhero. Fantastic Four. Conan. I was more of a Marvel guy really. But I did like DC, and even Captain Marvel, going back to that kinda stuff, Shazam. Even things that weren’t very popular, like Ant-Man. I would just buy everything just because it was a comic book and the cover looked cool. But yeah, I’d say probably Daredevil. And I actually loved the Netflix series too. I think they’ve done a really good job with it.

You mentioned working with Zack Snyder, director of Watchmen. Have you followed this stuff going on with the movie Justice League and the campaign from fans to release the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League.

Not really. I read something. I know there was some kind of controversy about it. All I could say is, I think he’s an outstanding director, and not just because I’ve worked with him. I know how meticulous he works from having worked with him, so I can speak to it from that side. For example, this is how weird it can be in the fan world I guess. When Watchmen came out, some fans were complaining that it was too close to the book. That it was too true. Well, isn’t that what you would want? I mean, you’ve read the novel, and it’s almost exactly like the novel, and you’re unhappy about it? You can’t please everybody. I think it’s such a beautifully shot movie. The acting was so good. Every time I see it I pick something else out. Oh my god, I didn’t notice that the last time. It’s so intricate. I just love it. I love that movie. So yes, I would say, release the Zack Snyder version because I know it’ll be good.

Awesome. Our readers are gonna love that. Is there anything that we missed that you want to get across about 350 days or the premiere?

We are so close to selling out both New York and Hollywood. I’ve already asked the theater to see if I can get into a larger theater. It looks like a huge turnout. But what I would like is that people in the smaller markets, you know, it’s playing in at least 48 of 50 states. I don’t think it’s up in New Hampshire or Maine. It’s a pretty rural, those markets. But I want people in Florida, and Iowa, and Kentucky, and Texas, all over the country, to go see this movie. There’s not that much press. We’ve been on I don’t know how many wrestling podcasts and blogs and so a lot of wrestling fans know about it, but I want and need people in smaller markets to go out and support this because it’s a little indie movie. You don’t have a big publicity machine and the Hollywood budget really to really promote it in those smaller markets. So, please tell your friends and family and go out and see this movie, even if you’re not a wrestling fan. You really will love it.

We got a review from the Boston Globe, and it started out saying if you love professional wrestling or Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, or just the tenacity of the human spirit, go see this movie. And they’re right. That’s what’s it’s about. Just like the movie The Wrestler, it wasn’t about wrestling. It was about a guy and his relationship with his daughter. He just happened to be a wrestler. It worked around that world. So that’s what this is. We interviewed wrestlers, yes, but what’s it about? It’s about life. Life on the road. It’s about missing your kids birthdays and violence and sex and drugs and everything that we’re all exposed to every single day. But these were your childhood heroes perhaps. And now you know what their life was like. It’s a really fascinating story.

These guys are so complicated you think they’re just big brutes and simple-minded, and they’re in a big ring putting on this little fantasy thing. No. There’s so much work going on. There’s so much involved. I just want people to know about it.

Alright. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me.

Jude, my pleasure.


350 Days is showing at theaters around the country this Thursday, July 12th. Head to the Fathom Events website to find out where it’s showing near you.

If you’re still not convinced, check out some trailers and clips below:

 

(Last Updated July 11, 2018 12:34 pm )

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About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.

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